Sunday, May 6, 2018

Stirling Castle Scotland ~ Where the Highlands and Lowlands Meet

Stirling, like a huge brooch,  
clasps Highlands and Lowlands together.
~Alexander Smith

Stirling Castle

First written record of the castle 1107-1115
When Alexander I endows a chapel.

Robert the Bruce 

The Queen Anne Gardens

"There may have been a royal garden here since the 1400s and the flat lawn was turned into a bowling green in the 1620s."

The Queen's apartments in the Renaissance Palace look down over this lovely lawn and garden. 

Inside this lovely old building is a museum timeline of Stirling Castle. The Castle changed hands many times over the years and this exhibition space gives an overview of the bloody struggle between the Scots and English. Many of the most famous names in Scottish history are linked to Stirling including Robert the Bruce, William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots.

As you will see from this post, the weather is constantly changing in Scotland! Sun in the photos above and clouds in the photos below!

The views from Stirling Castle are spectacular!

Mom and Dad with a view!

The history of Stirling is the history of Scotland and its importance cannot be overstated. There are more charming places, and one could argue more lovely and picturesque, but for historical importance you can't get more significant than that of Stirling Castle. Robert the Bruce burned it down, William (Braveheart) Wallace's battle at Stirling bridge ... and the Stuart kings and Queens (including Mary Queen of Scots) who lived at Stirling. There are all sorts of documentaries you can find on Youtube!

The Royal Palace
Renaissance Palace of James V and Mary of Guise 
The Childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots

The palace is considered one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in Britain but the original interiors did not survive. There was a recent 12 million pound restoration which is covered in this brief video.

I wish they aged the look of it a bit and used some of the money to buy antiques. Though the artisans did some beautiful painting and carving, when things are brand new they remind me a bit of Disneyland. I understand they were trying to make it look as it did 500 years ago when it was new but I still think they could have muted the colors a bit.

Royal Quarters

Queen's Presence Chambers

They patterned 7 new tapestries, for the Royal Chambers, after the Unicorn tapestries at the Cloisters Museum. The Cloisters is part of the Metropolitan Museum in New York but way up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Anyway, according to records, there was a similar set of works at Stirling. It took two years just to complete the first new tapestry.

This is a great little video about the tapestry project. (It's short!)

The Royal Chapel

It was built as one of the first Protestant kirks in Scotland. It is also the last royal building built at the castle. 

James VI built the Chapel for the baptism of his son Prince Henry.

The frieze (below) is beautiful. It was painted in 1628 by Valentine Jenkin.

Like I said, spectacular views!

I loved the contrast of natural stonework and the soft salmon painted walls of the Great Hall ...

The Great Hall
Completed 1503 for James IV

The Grand Battery was built during the first Jacobite rising in 1689. In January 1746 Bonnie Prince Charlie laid siege to Stirling but was not successful. It was basically down hill from there. The whole rebellion ended just a few months later at the battle of Culloden.

Encircling much of the castle were these wonderful walkways! You'd come around the corner to another wonderful view!

In the following photo, you can see a large phallic symbol on the hill in the distance. It is the Wallace Monument. As fascinating and romantic (and inaccurate) as the film Braveheart was, this was as close as we'd ever get to the monument. 

They were closing down the castle at this point and even with teleportation we'd never make it before they closed. As I've said so often, there is never enough time to do everything so you have focus on the things you just have to do! Then you let the rest go!

In 1297 William Wallace and Andrew Moray defeated the English at the very important Battle of Stirling Bridge and retook the castle. Nope, no bridge battle in the movie. The following year the Scots lost the Battle of Falkirk and it went back into the hands of the English. The year after that the castle was besieged again and went back into the hands of the Scots ... 

Anyway, you get the idea. 

About half way from Edinburgh to Inverness is the charming town of Pitlochry. They have their own smaller version of the Edinburgh Festival with a beautiful theater complex. That, however, will have to wait for a future visit!

This time was just dinner stop before driving the rest of the way to Inverness. (We called ahead from the car for a table.)

This place was adorable and had incredible food. I had a delicious greek salad and a wonderful sea bass. We also had rope mussels in white wine and garlic. Mmmmm. I'm getting hungry writing this! Oh, and a wee dram of Scotch. 

It was definitely busier at one point than the photo would imply and this was on a Tuesday. I'm guessing it's packed on the weekends. I found it on Trip Advisor and not surprisingly, after trying it, it had a great rating. The service was also excellent.

Pitlochry Festival Theatre

This is one of my favorite videos I have run across on YouTube, Scottish or otherwise. It's hysterical. Enjoy!

Next post ... Inverness!


donna baker said...

Such beauty Lucinda. The last film reminded me of the first (and last) time I tried using the call feature in my truck. Terry and they'd dial Mary and on and on. I might even have had trouble understanding the Scots. In France I kept asking for ice. I'd get a glass. Since, I have only to learn the basics, like where's the bathroom?

Loree said...

In my mind, Stirling Castle has got to be the most romantic castle in all of Britain. I'm not sure why I think of it in that way. But then, there's no logic behind these things. Lovely post and photos.